At 22, IAS officer Anju Sharma cracked UPSC in her very first attempt, proving that failures are only stepping stones to success
Today, when I look back to my days as a student, I wonder how everyone around me prepared me for success but failed to do the same for my failure. I distinctly remember cursing myself the day I failed in Economics paper in class 12. Naturally, to save myself from the embarrassment of nosy relatives and neighbours alike, I worked hard for my next paper and scored a distinction in the subject.
The story you are about to read is a reflection of how in our Indian households, the pressure to bring better percentage is so high, that a child’s fears, stress and anxieties often get neglected.
Many people, thankfully, have proved that more often than not, failures become stepping stones to success and IAS officer Anju Sharma from Jaipur, is one of them. Had she not failed her Chemistry paper in tenth pre-board exam, she would never have developed a preparation strategy for all her upcoming exams and life.
From Failing her Chemistry Pre-Boards to Conquering UPSC
Recalling the night before the chemistry paper, Sharma, who is currently posted as Principal Secretary, Higher and Technical Education, Gujarat, tells The Better India:
“I had so many chapters to cover and it was almost post-dinner when I started panicking. I was so unprepared that I knew I was going to fail, something that is looked down upon. At one point I burst into tears. What made the situation worse was that the paper was for pre-boards. Everyone around me stressed on the fact that how the performance of tenth grade is crucial as it determines our higher studies.”
She even felt a pinch of guilt for disappointing her parents, who were always proud of her high marks in school exams. Nonetheless, she faced the dreaded day and as she had feared failed her Chemistry paper.
When the results came out, her mother consoled her and assured her it was okay.
“‘Don’t lose your heart’ were her exact words. My parents always believed that children should learn from their failures. They weren’t upset about my results. I think that support from my parents as a child shaped how I perceived my failures. I inherited this lesson from them and now as a mother, I tell my children the same,” she adds.
The Lesson which Helped Her Many Times Over
Sharma feels that leaving everything for the last minute and lack of preparation translated into her low marks. Interestingly, the night she thought her world was crashing down around her, was the same night when this failure acted as an eyeopener. She realised the value of being prepared as a fail safe against such incidents. This is when she cracked an easy formula that would eventually help her to clear UPSC in the first attempt!
Her formula was to always complete the syllabus well in advance and take a break on the eve of any examination. “It changed my life. I learnt about the repercussions of my own actions. It made me realise the risks and provided clarity of how I wanted my future to be. In the process, I ended up developing responsible behaviour. I promised myself to prepare well in advance for all my exams and life battles,” Sharma says.
Applying her mantra, she went on to complete her BSc and MBA from the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur where was a gold medalist in both!
When Sharma decided to appear for the UPSC Civil Services in 1991, she had no one but herself to prove that she could crack the exam with hard work and sticking to her strategy of completing the syllabus well in advance to get ample time for revision. In fact, the day before she was to appear, Sharma was “chilling” and “relaxing”.
When the UPSC results were announced, her neighbours were surprised to hear her name, “Some people commented saying ‘yeh ladki toh hamesh ghoomti rehti thi, isne kaise clear kiya’, (This girl was always chilling. Then how come she cleared the exam?)” she chuckles.
Advice To Children & Parents
Sharma dispels the notion that there is no one formula to get high marks or crack any competitive exams.
“All you need is a strong will, focus and determination. Approach the studies with utmost sincerity without worrying about the results. Do not put your entire life into it. Remember UPCS civil services are only an exam, you will get innumerable chances to make things right. Choose the study pattern as per your comforts,” she says.
Meanwhile, for parents, she adds, “Instead of hammering your already stressed-out kid, talk to them and understand them. Support and love them unconditionally irrespective of the exam results. If you don’t judge them, they always come to you in turbulent times. They will have someone to lean on. Prepare them to accept failures with grace.”
As rightly pointed out by Sharma, turn in failures in your favour and use them to do better next time.
Also Read: #UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper Rahul Pandve Shares How to Crack Prelims & Handle Failure
Featured image source: Anju Sharm/Twitter
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)